happy 2020

The Centre's activities in the context of the Tianzhu academic network

In 2017, the Centre became part of a global network of universities conducting research on East-Asian Buddhism and more particularly Chinese Chan. The other members of this international partnership include the University of British Columbia, the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University, the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (INALCO) and McMaster University. Through the support of this exciting venture, the Centre organizes a range of activities (details below).

February and March 2020: A series of lectures & workshops by Lia Wei 魏離雅

Dr. Lia Wei (Lecturer in Archaeology & Museum Studies, School of History, Renmin University, China) will give a series of lectures and workshops supported by the Tianzhu Academic Network Project and Ghent University. The program includes the following topics: landscape painting, ink art, antiquarianism and seal carving. The program is concluded by a lecture on Song dynasty gardens given by Ms. Salome Foltin (University of Tübingen).  All lectures and workshops will take place at the interfaculty study center VANDENHOVE (Rozier 1, 9000 Ghent). Admission is free but for the workshops registration is required. For further inquiries please contact Mathieu.Torck@UGent.be. 

(see link to full program below)


1. Landscape painting lecture: "Reading and writing the landscape: from physical to literary perceptions"

Venue: Auditorium Vandenhove

Tuesday, February 11, 2020: 1–4 pm

• Topics: conceptual, pictorial and written landscapes

• Discussion: Drawing and Writing

2. Ink art workshop: "Find your way between nature and culture" (registration required!)

Venue: Workshop Room Vandenhove

Monday, February 17, 2020: 4–6 pm

• Session 1: Landscape Analysis & Construction

Tuesday, February 18, 2020: 2–4 pm

• Session 2: Beyond Classification

Tuesday, February 18, 2020: 4–6 pm

• Session 3: Texture Lines & Calligraphic Portraits

Registration: https://eventmanager.ugent.be/Inkartworkshop

3. Antiquarianism lecture: "Future in the Past: printing and carving before and after writing"

Venue: Auditorium Vandenhove

Tuesday, February 25, 2020: 5–6 pm

4. Seal carving workshop: "Connect sign and matter in three steps" (registration required!)

Venue: Workshop Room Vandenhove

Monday, March 2, 2020: 3–6 pm

• Session 1: Etymological Research and Calligraphic Models

Tuesday, March 3, 2020: 3–6 pm

• Session 2: Carving and Printing

Registration: https://eventmanager.ugent.be/SealCarvingWorkshop

5. Lecture by Salome Foltin (M.A. Department of Chinese Studies, University of Tübingen): "The Literati’s Pastime: Visual Renderings of Sima Guang’s 司馬光 (1019-1086) Garden in Ming Dynasty"

Venue: Auditorium Vandenhove

Tuesday, March 3, 2020: 6–7 pm

Full program

Buddhist Studies Lecture Series (2020) POSTPONED UNTIL 2021

Venue: Library Magnel, Faculty Library, Rozier 44, Ghent

Time: 19:30–21:00

  • Wednesday 26 February 2020

From Tranquility (ji 寂) to Illumination (zhao 照): The Jizhao Temple in the Context of Social Changes in Dali Prefecture [由寂而照:社会变迁中的寂照庵]
Xuan Fang (Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Renmin University of China)

  • Thursday 2 April 2020

Mindfulness in de traditie van Huineng
Edel Maex (psychiatrist; mindfulness expert)

Long-term Visiting Scholars 2019–2020: Dr Lia Wei (Renmin University, China)

Dr Lia WEI is currently based at the Department of Archaeology and Museum Studies in Renmin University of China, conducting research and teaching on the archaeology of culture contact and the intersection between intangible and material cultural heritage, as well as contributing to several research-oriented, educational or curatorial collaborations between Renmin University and European partners (Université de Genève, Ghent University).

Dr. Wei has been conducting research in China since 2009, with a focus on medieval Buddhist epigraphy and cave temples in Northeast China (Shandong, Hebei, Henan provinces) as well as funerary landscapes in Southwest China (Sichuan, Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan, Hubei and Hunan provinces). She received her PhD with a thesis entitled ‘Highland Routes and Frontier Communities at the Fall of the Han Empire (2nd to 3rd century CE): A Comparative Study of Cave Burials South of the Yangzi River’ at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

In parallel to her work as an art historian and archaeologist, she engages in practice-based research or creative practices and designs projects that combine academic and artistic research. She was trained in calligraphy, sigillography and landscape painting at the China Academy of Art (Hangzhou 2007) and Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (Chongqing 2008), and recently coordinated a series of events combining conferences and exhibitions in the field of ink painting, literati art and antiquarianism, in particular rubbing techniques (Ink Art Week in Venice 2018, Lithic Impressions Venice 2018, Ink Brussels 2019).

During her stay at Ghent University (18 January–3 A¨pril 2020) Dr Wei will conduct an elaborate program of lectures and workshops centering on the following topics: landscape painting, antiquarianism, ink art, calligraphy and seal carving. Dr Wei's visit and program in Ghent are generously sponsored by the Tianzhu Foundation (see above).

Long-term Visiting Scholars 2019–2020: Dr Wang Changlin (Sichuan University)

Dr WANG Changlin 王长林 (° 1989) received his Ph.D. from Sichuan University in 2017. He is currently an associate researcher at the Institute of Chinese Folk Culture at Sichuan University. Dr Wang's research interests include the language of Buddhist literature and the history of Chinese vocabulary. He published a monograph (2018) on Zen literature language with Shanghai Education Press as well as several articles on linguistic topics related to Zen Buddhist literature from Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties in journals such as Yuyan yanjiu 語言研究, Yuyan kexue 語言科學, and Hanyu xuebao 漢語學報. Wang Changlin is Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese History Research Collection (CSSCI Source Collection) and Assistant Editor of the Popular Language Studies. Supported by the generous funding of the Tianzhu Foundation, Wang Changlin will give lectures, seminars and workshops on a variety of topics and at various levels during his stay at Ghent University (9 February–5 May 2020). He will also closely cooperate in the framework of the current research projects.

Long-term Visiting Scholars 2019–2020: Professor Xuan Fang (Renmin University, China)

Professor XUAN Fang 宣方 is a research fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Religion, Renmin University of China, as well as the executive member of Journal of Religion. His main academic interests focuse on Chinese Buddhist meditative tradition and Modern Chinese Buddhism, particularly Humanistic Buddhism (renjian fojiao), in which fields he published a book and more than 40 articles including. Furthermore, he is also guest professor of many Buddhist academic institutes such as the Institute of Chinese Buddhist Culture, Institute of Peking Buddhist Culture, Peking University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Xiamen University, and Yunnan University. Xuan Fang will give lectures, seminars and workshops on a variety of topics and at various levels during his stay at Ghent University (6 January–3 March 2020). He will also closely cooperate in the framework of the current research projects.

Professor Xuan gave the following lecture:

"From Tranquility (ji 寂) to Illumination (zhao 照): The Jizhao Temple in the Context of Social Changes in Dali Prefecture" (由寂而照:社会变迁中的寂照庵)(26 February 2020)

The lecture focused on an unknown Buddhist nunnery suddenly going viral, through which Dr Xuan tries to draw the outline of the revival process of Buddhist nunneries in Post-Mao China. This lecture was part of the Buddhist Studies Lecture Series 2019–2020

Short-term Visiting Scholars 2019–2020: Professor Robert Sharf (University of California Berkeley)

Professor Robert SHARF received his B.A. (Religious Studies) and M.A. (Chinese Studies) from the University of Toronto and his Ph.D. (Buddhist Studies) from the University of Michigan. He taught at McMaster University (1989–95) and the University of Michigan (1995–2003) before joining the Berkeley faculty. He works primarily in the area of medieval Chinese Buddhism (especially Chan), but he also dabbles in Japanese Buddhism, Buddhist art, ritual studies, and methodological issues in the study of religion. He is author of Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise (2002), co-editor of Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context (2001), and is currently working on a book tentatively titled How to Read a Zen Koan. In addition to his appointment in EALC he serves as Director of the Group in Buddhist Studies, Director of Religious Studies, and Chair of the Center for Buddhist Studies. Professor Sharf will give two lectures:

"Taking Chan Gong’an (Public Cases) Seriously” (17 March 2020) as part of the Culture in Perspective: South and East Asia Lecture Series (MA course)

The lecture deals with recent work on Gong’an, making the case that they are more philosophically sophisticated than are commonly presented. More specifically, this talk will spend some time on Indian Madhyamaka, and it aims to connect Chinese Chan thought with issues debated in India. It is also relevant to an understanding of Zen in Japan, so I think it will work for this series. (This is from a chapter in a forthcoming book Dr. Sharf wrote with Jay Garfield, Graham Priest, and Deguchi Yasuo.) Finally, the talk will introduce the students (very briefly) to Dialetheism—a branch of philosophy that takes paradox seriously. (POSTPONED UNTIL 2021)

"Buddhist Modernism, Meditation, and Mindfulness Revisited" (19 March 2020) as part of the Buddhist Studies Lecture Series 2019–2020

"Buddhist modernism" evolved out of a complex intellectual exchange that took place between Asia and the West over the last century. In very general terms ,Buddhist modernists hold that Buddhism, properly understood, is not so much a "religion" as it is a "spiritual technology" designed to bring about a liberating psychological and spiritual transformation. The technology is comprised of meditation, which is often identified by Buddhist modernists as the practice of mindfulness. Scholars have justly criticized this approach to Buddhism for being historically and ethnographically naïve. (Indeed, some have argued that construing Buddhism as a "science of happiness" turns Buddhism on its head!) But putting aside a scholar's concern with historical accuracy and theoretical sophistication, one might ask what harm there is in popularizing Buddhism in this manner? After all, Buddhism spread and survived for two thousand years precisely by adapting itself to local needs and norms. This talk will consider the issue of what is at stake—historically, sociologically, and philosophically—in reducing Buddhism to meditation, and meditation to mindfulness. (POSTPONED UNTIL 2021)

Short-term Visiting Scholars 2019–2020: Professor James A. Benn (McMaster University, Canada)

photo of James A. Benn

Professor James A. BENN was trained primarily as a scholar of medieval Chinese religions (Buddhism and Taoism).  His research is aimed at understanding the practices and world views of medieval men and women, both religious and lay, through the close reading of primary sources in literary Chinese—the lingua franca of East Asian religions. He has concentrated on three major areas of research: bodily practice in Chinese Religions; the ways in which people create and transmit new religious practices and doctrines; and the religious dimensions of commodity culture. In particular James A. Benn has worked on self-immolation, Chinese Buddhist apocrypha, and the religious and cultural history of tea. 

With the generous support of the Tianzhu Foundation Professor Benn participated in the Kosmoi Conference titled “Good - Better - Best. Asceticism and the Way to Perfection” and organized at the Catholic University of Leuven (October 21–23, 2019). The title of his paper is: "Is Buddhist Self-immolation a Form of Asceticism?"


Zotero bibliography and reference works concerning Buddhist sites in Sichuan

This is a collaborative project of the Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies and the project "From the Ground Up: Buddhism and East Asian Religions" (FROGBEAR, UBC). The bibliography is compiled in the framework of the seminar/conference on Sichuan Buddhist sites in Chengdu (organized by the Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies and Sichuan University, May 20–23, 2020), and the field trip to Anyue (May 25–29, 2020), as part of the research cluster "Typologies of Text and Image Relations". The compilation of the bibliography has been generously supported by the Tianzhu Foundation, FROGBEAR, and the Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies. A public version of the bibliography (without the PDFs of the articles / books) will be released in Autumn 2020. For practical reasons the website is currently closed but it will be gradually opened to the public as the project further unfolds (https://www.zotero.org/groups/2421413/sichuan_buddhist_sites).

Editor: Prof. Christoph Anderl (Ghent University)

Research assistant: Ms. Bai Shan (Ghent University)

Doctoral School Specialist Course: Chinese Buddhist Historical Records in the Context of Digital Humanities (October 21–25, 2019)

The Doctoral School’s specialist course focused on historical literature, including local gazetteers and Transmission of the Lamp texts, of the Chinese Buddhist schools. While adopting a diachronic perspective, covering texts between the 10th and the 17th century, the special angle of the course is to relate the study of historical sources to modern technologies and most recent advances in Digital Humanities. This will offer students important insights in key Chinese text genres and their study based on modern research tools. This specialist course contributes to the FROGBEAR project. Thanks to the generous support of the Tianzhu Foundation 8 international doctoral students were granted a travel stipend to attend this school. Furthermore, the Tianzhu Foundation funded guest lecturer Professor Marcus Bingenheimer to join the Doctoral School Specialist Course as guest lecturer.

Marcus BINGENHEIMER was born in Germany. He obtained an MA (Sinology) and Dr.phil (History of Religions) from Würzburg University and an MA (Communication Studies) from Nagoya University. Marcus Bingenheimer currently works as Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. At TU he is also Academic Director of the Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio where he helps to coordinate support for emerging digital scholarship technologies, such as Digital Humanities & Arts methods, 3D printing, or the use of VR-environments. From 2005 to 2011 he taught Buddhism and Digital Humanities in Taiwan. He has supervised various projects concerning the digitization of Buddhist culture and was responsible for the Chinese Localization of TEI. Professor Bingenheimers' main research interests are the history of Buddhism in East Asia and early Buddhist sutra literature. Regarding the former, he is currently assembling a dataset for the historical social network analysis of Chinese Buddhist history; regarding the latter, he is working on a translation of the Shorter Chinese Saṃyuktāgama (T.100). Beyond Buddhist Studies, Professor Bingenheimer is interested in computational approaches to scholarship and how to do research in an age of digital information.

For the full program of this Doctoral School Specialist Course see http://www.cbs.ugent.be/node/688

Ghent Database of Medieval Chinese

The generous funding of the Tianzhu Academic Network funded programming on the Ghent Database of Medieval Chinese

Originally initiated in 2014, the Ghent Database of Medieval Chinese (GDMC) is a collaborative project with the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts (Taiwan)  The project has two main goals:

  • To produce high-quality marked-up digital editions of important medieval Chinese Dūnhuáng texts;
  • To build up a database aiming at the analysis of aspects of the language of Late Medieval Chinese, a period crucial for Chinese historical linguistics and our understanding of the early stages of development of Modern Mandarin and Chinese dialects.

During these initial phases, which were financed by the Research Foundation-Flanders (FWO) and Ghent University (BOF), the important know-how as well as the database infrastructure was created. In the beginning of 2017, the entire technical infrastructure of the DB was redone in order to enhance its functionality, and funding from the Tianzhu Foundation was used to fund programming on the database. It contributes to the FROGBEAR project.

For more details about this database project see: http://www.cbs.ugent.be/node/678